The Crusader Newspaper Group

March is Women’s History Month

A time for accolades and addressing issues

By Vernon A. Williams

In an interview with comedian-activist Dick Gregory, I remember him making a statement between questions. Referring specifically to African American men he said, “Brother, any man who describes his woman as strong and his car beautiful has got issues.”

It took a second to click. It was not that the woman was not strong. That was beyond dispute. Neither was it that there was anything wrong with liking the look of a shiny, new car. That’s what drives you to pick it from the lot and purchase.

Brother Gregory’s point was, priorities. Strength is part of the beauty of Black women. But that characteristic aside, they are queens worthy of royal treatment. And in some ways Gregory implied, deferring to a woman’s strength could be subtle acquiescence of weak manhood.

Not to stereotype, we know that there are men critical of women primarily because of their own insecurity. So, the strength moniker becomes a left-handed compliment; an unspoken excuse for their own lacking character.

Arguably, stronger men see beauty first – outside and within – and then acknowledge the rest. Natural for him, invigorating for her.

March is Women’s History Month across the country and around the world. At some point, we need to stop giving lip-service to the reverence with which we hold women and start making it real.

As a reporter at the Gary Post-Tribune in the ‘70s, I remember a very congenial, pragmatic, conservative managing editor approaching as we both worked late. In his most serious tone, he asked: “Williams. Do you ever think we’ll see a gal reporter on our newsroom staff?”

The question stunned me, at least partly because my life indoctrination regarding the opposite sex came from the most obvious of sources – a strong and beautiful mother. I remember hearing folk refer to females of her nature as domineering. By the way, I have yet to hear a man, any man, described as domineering. The male version of the same characteristic is called, “assertive.”

That hypocrisy aside, I considered stating the obvious, answering the query from my managing editor. I started to point to the brilliant and courageous women who excelled in every arena of national and global achievement throughout time. Or, I could have mentioned the wrongfulness in the presumptive tone of his question that in itself catered to gender stereotypes. I could have simply replied, “Why not?”

But it came to me that this was an opportunity for a more profound statement from a young reporter to a seasoned veteran in the field. With a resolute spirit, I looked him in the eye and repeated the question, “Will we ever see female reporters in the newsroom?” I smiled and said, “They probably asked the same question about Blacks 10 years ago.”

Visibly taken aback by the circuitous but totally relevant response, my probing editor stood there for a moment contemplating, before eventually shrugging his shoulders and walking away without another word. I do know that he lived to see the change in the industry that resulted in women emerging in numbers, and assuming executive positions and ownership.

When provided the same education, preparation, experience and opportunity as male counterparts, women surpass the performance of men in a myriad of life pursuits – professionally or socially. Through the prism of equity, all must admit that women have their share of scoundrels, cheats, cutthroats, incompetents, and miscreants. There is no perfect gender.

But when it came down to contrasting the moral authority, intellectual honesty and compassionate strength of ladies and gentlemen, women virtually always prevail.

In America, old habits and jaded traditions die hard. The female worker is still underpaid for the same responsibilities, and the most qualified person to seek the U.S. presidency (who happened to be a woman) lost miserably to the least qualified person to run in history.

The surveys show that in alarming numbers, even many women don’t trust women as might be expected. It’s a sad truth, women can say, “We’ve come a long way, baby.”

But the glaring reality of discrimination against women is evident at a casual glance, in federal, state and local government; major corporations and entrepreneurial opportunities; profit and not-for-profit organizations; the pews and pulpits of our religious institutions; law enforcement, medicine, education and almost every profession.

The numbers prove that just as racial advances by no means constitute our arrival at a post-racial era, neither do the magnificent gains of so many women, in so many places, rising in so many ways signify genuine gender equity and inclusion for all.

We salute the women who comprise the cornerstone of our republic and rededicate ourselves to the relentless pursuit of unfinished business.

CIRCLE CITY CONNECTION by Vernon A. Williams is a series of essays on myriad topics that include social issues, human interest, entertainment and profiles of difference- makers who are forging change in a constantly evolving society. Williams is a 40-year veteran journalist based in Indianapolis, IN – commonly referred to as The Circle City. Send comments or questions to: [email protected].

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